Romantic jealousy alive and well in Vietnam

By Pham Nga   July 20, 2023 | 11:24 pm PT
Romantic jealousy alive and well in Vietnam
Vera Ha Anh advises a wife struggling with jealousy in her marriage. Photo courtesy of Vera Ha Anh
For the past two years, Duc Thanh has feared going home after work because he knows his wife will wake in bed for a midnight interrogation.

Thanh, 34 years old, is the head of the marketing department of an enterprise. Most of his subordinates are female. The company has a friendly working environment: employees and bosses often eat lunch together, share food or go out for coffee.

At first, Thanh's wife, Ngoc Bich, knew the company culture and was comfortable with it.

But everything changed after she had her first baby.

Now, every day, Bich video calls her husband to check where he is and what he’s doing.

"I only have an hour break, but my wife keeps pestering me on the phone...she tells me to talk to our child, who is barely a few months old," Thanh said.

When he arrives home after work, his wife demands that he let her read all the messages on his phone. She then grills him on any message she finds suspicious and the ordeal often ends with her in tears.

Bich also forces Thanh to save his social media password on his home computer so that she can check in on who he talks to.

One day an employee of Thanh sent some photos to the company’s group chat, including a shot of a female employee taking food from Thanh's lunch box.

Knowing his wife, Thanh asked the employee to delete the photo, but he was too late and Bich had already seen it. "If nothing is going on, why delete it?" she asked her husband.

The next day, right at lunchtime, Bich brought a box lunch to her husband's company and gave it to the woman in the picture. She also then had something to say to the woman very publicly in front of the whole office. Thanh remembers his wife’s words well: "Next time, if you want to eat, message me, and I’ll make more food. My husband doesn’t like it when strangers touch his food."

In Hanoi's Ha Dong district, Thu Hang, 40, is also miserable because of her husband Tung’s jealousy.

According to Tung's "rules," Hang is not allowed to meet with friends or family without him. She must refuse any invitations to after-hours fun with colleagues and she’s not allowed to attend company parties and vacations as well.

"I knew he was easily jealous when I was still dating him, but I thought it was because he loved me too much," she said.

But the problem has taken its toll on her emotional well-being.

Once, after the whole family gathered at a restaurant for big meal, Tung insisted that he and his wife leave early. He drove them home as fast as he could and once he opened the door he threw his helmet violently to the floor and started shouting:

"Why did the guy at the table opposite us look at you like he was about to eat you alive?!"

He then berated her for wearing a dress that wasn’t "modest" enough.

Hang calmly explained that she dressed nicely because she was going out with her husband. She then asked him why he didn’t say anything before they left for the restaurant.

With out answering the question Tung ordered his wife to change her clothes and then tore up the dress in front of her.

Doctor of Sociology Pham Thi Thuy from the National Academy of Public Administration, HCMC branch, said that jealousy towards opposite-sex friend relationships in a partner’s life is a common phenomenon, not only in young people but also middle-aged and even elderly couples.

Last year, Thuy received a call from a 70-year-old woman asking for advice because her 80-year-old husband was still blinded by jealousy after decades of marriage.

The woman said she had recently gone to visit her relative, but was then unable to return home as scheduled due to rain storms.

Her husband thought she was staying at an old lover’s house. When she returned home, he did what he often does: he locked all the doors in the house to preventer her from leaving. When she was able to unlock on and step outside for a minute he shouted at her loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

The woman is now too shy to even face her neighbors, she’s embarrassed spending time with her children, and she feels humiliated and manipulated and sick of being controlled all the time.

So she asked someone to help her connect her with a psychologist.

According to Thuy, the most important cause of extreme jealousy in a person is the loss of faith in themselves, their partner, and the relationship. "If the couple love each other strongly, then nothing can make either of them jealous," she said

Since she began staying at home to take care of her newborn child, Ngoc Bich (Thanh's wife) has gained weight, spends less time styling her hair and must dress exactly as her husband wants her to if they ever go out.

"I was afraid that he was sick of me. He has become more distant and talks so tersely," she confided to a psychologist.

Experts said that unjustified jealousy can also stem from past psychological trauma. For example, a person who lacked parental love as a child or was betrayed by someone they knew often becomes suspicious and finds it difficult to trust in love.

Thu Hang thinks that this is part of the reason her husband is easily jealous. Ever since childhood, Tung lived with his single father, after his mother abandoned the family for someone else.

Hearing that from his grandmother, Tung’s childhood consisted of listening to his father ranting and cursing out his mother whenever he was drunk. Later, when Tung got into a his first relationship his partner broke up with him because she said he was too poor.

"After a few years of us being married, my income is higher than his, so his worries are even worse," Thu Hang said.

Thuy confirmed extreme and unreasonable jealousy not only makes both partners in the couple miserable, but it can also tear the relationship apart, which often becomes particularly traumatic for the children.

For example, 10% of more than 6,800 murder cases between 2014 and 2019 stemmed from jealousy. According to the Vietnam Farmers' Union, among the major causes of domestic violence, jealousy ranks second after alcohol and drugs

Since Bich brought the lunch box to confront her husband’s female co-worker, all of the female employees have decided to keep their distance from Thanh. Thanh blamed his wife for being rude, and Bich responded by crying angrily while accusing Thanh of "siding with his mistress." After that day, Thanh has only wanted to avoid his wife, and Bich has become even more paranoid. They now fight regularly.

''I'm so tired, I don't want to go home anymore. I feel like I have been mentally abused,'' Thanh said.

Thu Hang said she still loves her husband but feels like he is suffocating her. Her two teenage children have also become dissatisfied and upset with how their father treats their mother. They now regularly encourage her to get a divorce.

For those who are easily jealous, Thuy advises looking far into the cause of jealousy, a try to discern whether it is because of you or your partner. If it’s because of traumas, then they need time to release and heal.

Marriage and Family therapist Vera Ha Anh from Hanoi said love often leads to a feeling of wanting to possess. If you have a jealous partner, start with sympathy, patiently listen to them, and discuss how to share your thoughts.

"Communication is always the best way to solve problems," she said.

Dr. Thuy further suggested helping your partner become more confident in themselves and in love by complimenting them more, spending more time with family, pampering your partner, instead of being depressed, and pushing your spouse away.

After some consultation, Thanh invested more in his relationship. Instead of avoiding communication, he took a leave from work and went back to his wife’s hometown with the family for a week, hoping to improve the family’s mood.

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